Monday, October 31, 2005

First U.S. truth commission invites community to Dialogue Nov. 5

(A GTRC news release)

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission invites all community members interested in the city’s future to participate in its Community Dialogue, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 1301 Alamance Church Road.

The Dialogue is designed to engage community members in creating a collective vision for Greensboro’s future, and to provide more input into the Commission’s historic work of seeking truth and working for reconciliation around the tragedy of Nov. 3, 1979.

Goals of the event are
· to give the community a voice in the Commission’s final report recommendations;
· to help the community – including the Commission – better understand the issues surrounding the events of Nov. 3, 1979, and how they are connected to the present and future; and
· to lay a foundation for community bridge-building over time.

Participants will be divided into small groups led by skilled facilitators to

· share reactions to the Commission’s three public hearings, held between July and October (a video summary will be shown so participants need not have attended the hearings);
· identify issues from 1979 that still need to be addressed; and
· brainstorm ideas for how Greensboro institutions and individuals can approach these issues.

“Since this process is giving us a better understanding of one difficult event in the past, we’re in a better position to assess the surrounding issues and brainstorm ways we can begin coming together to build a stronger city in the future,” says Jill Williams, executive director of the Commission. “We’re pulling together everyone from senior citizens to teens – in all of our diversity – to tap into the wealth of creativity and experience that we know exists in our community.”

A total of 24 experienced facilitators, including three who speak Spanish, are volunteering their time and expertise to the Dialogue. One of the volunteers, Dr. Frank Dukes of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, will provide a workshop for facilitators on Friday, Nov. 4.

The Greensboro Human Relations Commission (HRC) has agreed to accept and review the notes that will be taken, in hopes of better understanding the community and using them to help guide planning. HRC Vice Chair Wayne Abraham will give a welcome at the event, which is funded in part by a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.

Modeled on truth-seeking efforts in South Africa, Peru and elsewhere, the Commission is an independent and impartial body created through a grassroots nomination and selection process. It is mandated to objectively examine the context, causes, sequence and consequence of the
explosion of violence on Nov. 3, 1979, when Klan and Nazi members killed five labor organizers and wounded ten others at a rally organized by the Communist Workers Party.

The Commission is the first of its kind in the United States and hopes its work will become a model other communities can use as a means of dealing constructively with unresolved tragedies in their own histories.

At the Commission’s three public hearings, a total of 54 speakers made presentations relating to the topics, “What Brought Us to Nov. 3, 1979?,” “What Happened On and After Nov. 3, 1979?” and “What Does the Past Have to Do With the Present and the Future?”

The three hearings, the Dialogue and the final report will give voice to the community’s collective experience of the shootings and their aftermath. The report, to be completed in the spring of 2006, also will include specific recommendations for the Greensboro community and its institutions for concrete healing, reconciliation and restorative justice.

Space is available for up to 200 Dialogue participants. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Participants are encouraged to stay through the entire day and to register in advance. To register or for more information, contact Phyllis Carter, the Commission’s administrative specialist, at 275-6462 or phyllis@greensborotrc.org. Information about the Commission is available online at www.greensborotrc.org and www.gtrc.blogspot.com.
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